Pilgrim Pathways: Notes for a Diaspora People

Incarnational Discipleship

The Magnificat: Song of Mary-the-Social-Revolutionary

In Christian art, she is usually depicted as a meek maiden and a passive figure.  This taming, this domestication of Jesus’ Mother, Miriam (whose name we Anglicize as “Mary”) falsifies her.  I think in most of Church History, the bigwigs have been afraid of Mary.  Her song of praise (the Magnificat) after the angel’s announcement is almost always sung in Latin–to keep ordinary people from realizing just how revolutionary her words are.  Now Mary doubtless sang in Aramaic and we don’t have the Aramaic original.  Luke’s Greek text (given below) may have been informed by a Christian community in which Mary was a member or even a leader, but in its present form was clearly modelled on Hannah’s Song (1 Samuel 2:1-10).  Mary expects her Son’s birth to lead to a “Great Reversal,” the scattering of the proud, the putting low of the rich and powerful, and the lifting of the poor and filling of the hungry.  This is no meek maiden nor anyconservative defender of the status quo: Mary is a prophet of social justice who would be called “Commie” by Fox News and the Religious Right! Bring it on, Sister Mary!

Μεγαλύνει ἡ ψυχή μου τὸν Κύριον
καὶ ἠγαλλίασεν τὸ πνεῦμά μου ἐπὶ τῷ Θεῷ τῷ σωτῆρί μου,
ὅτι ἐπέβλεψεν ἐπὶ τὴν ταπείνωσιν τῆς δούλης αυτοῦ.
ἰδού γὰρ ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν μακαριοῦσίν με πᾶσαι αἱ γενεαί,
ὅτι ἐποίησέν μοι μεγάλα ὁ δυνατός,
καὶ ἅγιον τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ,
καὶ τὸ ἔλεος αὐτοῦ εἰς γενεὰς καὶ γενεὰς
τοῖς φοβουμένοις αυτόν.
Ἐποίησεν κράτος ἐν βραχίονι αὐτοῦ,
διεσκόρπισεν ὑπερηφάνους διανοίᾳ καρδίας αὐτῶν·
καθεῖλεν δυνάστας ἀπὸ θρόνων
καὶ ὕψωσεν ταπεινούς,
πεινῶντας ἐνέπλησεν ἀγαθῶν
καὶ πλουτοῦντας ἐξαπέστειλεν κενούς.
ἀντελάβετο Ἰσραὴλ παιδὸς αὐτοῦ,
μνησθῆναι ἐλέους,
καθὼς ἐλάλησεν πρὸς τοὺς πατέρας ἡμῶν
τῷ Αβραὰμ καὶ τῷ σπέρματι αὐτοῦ εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα.
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour;
he has looked with favour on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed;
the Almighty has done great things for me and holy is his name.
He has mercy on those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm
and has scattered the proud in their conceit,
Casting down the mighty from their thrones
and lifting up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away empty.
He has come to the aid of his servant Israel,
to remember his promise of mercy,
The promise made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and his children for ever.

December 20, 2010 - Posted by | Advent, Bible, liturgy


  1. Michael,

    I believe the contact info I have for you is out of date. I’d like to get in touch. Please email me at aricclark33 at gmail dot com

    Comment by Aric Clark | December 20, 2010 | Reply

    • Aric, I no longer use email. I refuse to acknowledge it exists and hope it just goes away. You can call me at 502-749-3346.

      Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | December 20, 2010 | Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s